Black excellence showcased on mural at Oshawa’s GL Roberts

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Published February 16, 2023 at 2:48 pm

With inspirational Black heroes from Jackie Robinson and Andre de Grasse to Nelson Mandela and Harriet Tubman to draw from, students at GL Roberts CVI in Oshawa unveiled their Black Excellence Mural earlier this school year in an effort to encourage and educate both Black and non-black students, staff, and school visitors.

Students came together with the Principal last year to share and shape their ideas of how they could better represent each other in the school. Senior students from the Black Students’ Association helped to refine the thoughts and brainstorming process into what has become a stunning mural currently displayed in the school.

The mural depicts current and historical African, African-Canadian, African-American, African-Caribbean and Afro-Latina Muslim figures such as Rosemary Brown, Josephine Baker, Anthony Lue, Ginella Massa, Viola Desmond, Lincoln Alexander, Usain Bolt, Jean Augustine, and Sojourner Truth, as well as Robinson, Tubman, Mandela and de Grasse.

“We decided to use figures that are awesome and that people look up to because they represent excellence. We wanted to use people that inspired others,” explained Grade 12 student Scharla Green.

“We had a lot of support from the Black Graduation Coach and others in the school,” added fellow Grade 12 student Kimona Brown.\

Kevaun Clearly, who was also involved in the project, said the process was inspiring and helpful to him as a new student to the school last year. Bonding with other students through the Black Students’ Association to develop the mural and choose the figures helped him develop leadership skills and to lead younger black students.

“Being a part of the Black Students’ Association has allowed me to be more social because I’m not really a social person,” Clearly said. “The process has led me to be heard by others and show that we can be as outstanding as anyone else and be excellent.”

Students like Devonte Hall and Cherish Otono say students – Black and otherwise – sometimes struggle to understand the mural. However, the questions they ask present an opportunity to talk and explain the value and importance of the individuals in the mural.

A champion of the project, GL Roberts Principal Dawn White is encouraged by what she sees. “As a school community we value student identity and student voice. We wanted the Black Students’ Association to design and create a mural that celebrates Black Excellence and represents what they believe to be excellence in the Black community,” she said. “Our hope is that each and every day Black students will walk through the school and know that their identity is welcomed and treasured.”

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